VW and Wilco: Drivers and Listeners Wanted

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Fans of Jeff Tweedy and Wilco know the leader and his band are nothing if not unpredictable. With multiple line-up changes and sound variations over the years, the musical entity known as Wilco seems to be in a constant state of evolution. So it really should have come as no surprise when the song "The Thanks I Get" off Wilco's newest album Sky Blue Sky turned up in Volkswagen's latest ad "Tow Truck" by Crispin, Porter + Bogusky. The agency has used two songs in its new VW campaign so far, "The Thanks I Get" and "You Are My Face," the new album's bonus track. The VW deal will involve the use of up to six new songs. The unique arrangement marks the first time a brand has consciously soundtracked a campaign using songs from a single band's album. What makes this partnership even more intriguing is the fact the new VW commercials debuted the same week of Sky Blue Sky's release in late May.

"Wilco's a smart, creative and a very independent band," says Bill Meadows, executive integrated music producer at Crispin. "Their music really resonates with how we see the brand—they have a very strong connection with their fans and have cultivated a lot of loyalty, just as the VW brand has a lot of loyalty. It just felt like a very good fit for Volkswagen."

Meadows had heard an early release of the song "The Thanks I Get" and decided to contact the band's publisher to see if the band would be interested in being involved in the VW campaign. Wilco indeed was, but seemed to have anticipated some fan backlash with cries of the dreaded "Sellout!" and addressed the deal on its official website: "This is a subject we've discussed internally many times over the years regarding movies, TV shows and even the odd advertisement. With the commercial radio airplay route getting more difficult for many bands (including Wilco), we see this as another way to get the music out there. As with most of the above (with the debatable exception of radio) the band gets paid for this. And we feel okay about VWs. Several of us even drive them."

Meadows acknowledges that participating in advertising campaigns can be a tough decision for any band but maintains that it's in both the brand and band's best interest that enough thought is put into any partnership. "As long as the pieces fit properly, it's pretty much an 'everybody wins' situation," he says. "If the work is good and the brand is credible, then I think a lot of people are open to trying new things."
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